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County can vote on administrator hire indefinitely

County Attorney Allen Jones said the process of choosing between the final two candidates for the county administrator seat could go on indefinitely if the commission so chooses.

The commission first voted on the hire on June 25 with two votes ending in a tie. At the first vote, commissioners Jimmy Barron, Homer Wright and Charlie Harris supported Dr. LaKerri Mack, Troy University professor and former president of the board for the Boys and Girls Club. The other three commissioners – Robin Sullivan, Chad Copeland and Russell Johnson – voted against hiring Mack and instead voted in favor of hiring McKenzie Wilson, interim administrator and director of safety and personnel. The other three commissioners blocked the hire by voting no.

The vote came up once again at the commission’s most recent meeting on July 10 with the same result. Now the hire is on the agenda again for the upcoming meeting Monday.

Jones said an agenda rule for the commission requires that the tied vote remain on the agenda for a minimum of three subsequent meetings. Tomorrow’s meeting will be the second follow-up meeting since the initial vote.

“There is no law or provision or anything in the county personnel handbook that dictates how to resolve a tie vote,” Jones said. “There is an agenda rule though that when a tie vote occurs, the matter will remain on the agenda a minimum of three meetings in order for there to be continued debate and discussion. It can be brought up at any meeting to be voted on because it remains on the agenda by rule.”

From there, Jones said commissioners could vote to keep the item on the agenda for a specific set of time, or decide to let it stay on the agenda until it is resolved.

“There’s no tiebreaker in place internally,” Jones said. “A tie is what it is, unless somebody changes their mind, which can always happen and any matter can go either way.”

There is one rule that the county has adopted, however, that governs one way in which the tie cannot be broken.

“There cannot be a subsequent vote unless all six commissioners are present, for obvious reasons,” Jones said. “So nobody is sick or out of town when the vote is held. The commissioners respect each other’s positions even if they disagree. Out of fairness and respect for each other, there are no follow-up votes unless all six are there; it protects the integrity of the vote.”

Jones said the process has been handled appropriately by the commission. Dianna Bascomb, president of the Pike County NAACP, voiced concerns at the July 10 meeting that the commission lacks written criteria, lacks a human resources staff to vet candidates and has no way to break a tie.

Jones said the commission voted unanimously on the process of finding a replacement and that it is the same process that was used to hire former administrator Harry Sanders 16 years ago.

“Each commissioner took the applications submitted and then read, examined, reviewed, made phone calls, checked resources, checked references and used their factors that they on an individual basis felt like which candidate would make it to the next level of discussion,” Jones said. “What you had was a process of each commissioner having his own assessments and evaluations and then those candidates were collectively discussed as a group when we had executive sessions with the purpose to discuss good name and character.”

Jones said the process was credible and gave equal say to each commissioner.

“The commission in my opinion has handled the process of analyzing 17 applicants and narrowing that down through very thorough individual and collective processes to get it down to the two that we have,” Jones said.

He added that Wilson was not involved in reviewing candidates or viewing resumes due to her candidacy for the job; instead, all applications ran through his office.

Jones said the commission might have to find a solution though if the commissioners continue to reach a stalemate on the hire.

“At some point, obviously, the commission would have to come up with some idea or plan on what to do,” Jones said. “At this point though, they are still within that agenda rule.”

The commission will meet upstairs at the Pike County Health Department Monday. The work session will begin at 5:15 p.m. and the business meeting will follow at 6 p.m.

Correction: A previous version of this story identified Dr. LaKerri Mack s the president of the board for the Boys and Girls Club of Pike and Surrounding Counties. Mack served in the role previously and the current president is Isaiah Scott.